Christmas, it's the most wonderful time of the year, right? It can be! For many it is! December can be a month full of joy, happiness, love and celebrations. The lights are pretty, the Christmas songs are jolly, the food is yummy, and the films are funny. Everyone is having fun, everyone's happy. Everyone is laughing.
But what about the people who aren't happy, laughing or having fun? Christmas can be a really tough time for people who already struggle with their mental health but also those that don't. Christmas is expensive. Not planning and preparing a budget can lead to overspending, and debt, which let's be honest isn't going to be beneficial for anyone's wellbeing. Mental health charity SANE, have made an excellent video, showing the struggle that millions of people face every year with debt around Christmas time, which you can watch HERE.
And then there's winter specific mental illnesses, such as SAD also known as seasonal affective disorder, which is described by the NHS as " is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter." which is characterised by " a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day and sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning" I personally don't suffer from this particular mental health disorder, but I know people that do and I know how distressing and horrible it can be. Particularly with the added stigma that some people don't even know it exists or believe it's a real mental illness.
If you struggle with depression, you know the struggle that is getting through the day sometimes. That feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach or the painful feeling of unhappiness which doesn't go away. The worst thing for someone with depression is being forced to be happy. Everyone's happy around Christmas. It's the season of goodwill and celebrations, but what if you're not happy? What if you can't be happy no matter how hard you try?
That's okay. It honestly is. You shouldn't beat yourself up about it. Christmas is just one day of the year, although you wouldn't have guessed that these days, as the supermarkets seem to drag it out for six months beforehand. It can be tough, but you can get through it. The Christmas period can be a struggle for anyone but even more so than for people with mental health struggles. To help those who struggle with their mental health during the Christmas period, I've shared some little tips below, that hopefully, you may find useful.
1. Put your wellbeing and mental health needs above everything else.
If you know you are going to struggle, make sure you take care of yourself. Don't force yourself out of your comfort zone, if you are not ready. Don't overbook yourself with family meetings and parties, if it's just going to make you stressed. Don't feel obliged to go to every party or event, just because you were invited. You need to make sure you have down time, time to yourself and time to just chill out. Have a Christmas movie marathon on your own, have a warm bath with all the lush products and candles! Do whatever helps you relax and enjoy yourself. Yes, Christmas is fun and exciting, but it happens every year, pushing yourself too far will only result in worse consequences.
We all know that your health and diet go hand in hand with your mental health. At Christmas it's so easy to over indulge, go overboard with the chocolates or wine. Treat yourself for sure. Enjoy what you're eating, but make sure you eat everything in balance and moderation. We all know how we feel after overeating and scoffing our faces a bit too much. Take in easy over the festive period and try to maintain a fairly balanced and healthy diet.
3.Don't blame yourself
If you can't seem to look forward to Christmas or get excited over the Christmas TV guide, food or the presents, don't beat yourself up. Depression isn't cooperative. Depression isn't going to disappear for a couple of days over Christmas. Depression is an illness, a very real illness. You can't blame yourself if everyone else is happy and having fun but you can't seem to enjoy yourself, it's one of the unfortunate parts of the illness. Although it is easier said than done, try not to isolate yourself from everyone. It's the season of love and goodwill after all. You never know, after spending time with others, you may start to feel like your enjoying yourself, even it's just a little bit.
4. Let Someone know
If you're really struggling over the Christmas period, it's important to still let someone know. Just because it's Christmas and you may worry that everyone else is busy and are all consumed by the festivities, it shouldn't stop you seeking help. Christmas is an annual thing, they will be plenty more Christmases in the future. Your health and wellbeing are more important than anything else. If you don't feel up for a meeting with the family, let someone close to you know, explain the situation, and I'm sure they will understand and support you through the difficult time you are going through.
5. Try to keep some routine
It's so easy for everything to go to pot at Christmas. Although I think it's so important for everyone to take some time off over the Christmas period to enjoy yourself, relax and rejuvenate. It's equally important to keep a routine. With the dark mornings and nights, it can be hard to find motivation to do, well just about anything over the Christmas period. Try and stick to your normal schedule, for school, college and work for as long as you can, before Christmas before the new year comes around. By keeping yourself busy, will keep you motivated and help you feel more positive about starting, the following year.
I think that's about it! Christmas can be a tough time for everyone. If you suffer from mental health problems, Christmas can be a large source of anxiety and stress for you. To make it as enjoyable as possible for yourself and those around you, it's important to look after yourself and do everything in balance and moderation.
I hope you found these tips useful! If you have any more for coping with mental health problems during the Christmas period, I would love to know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading, as always X